219641 KS-VENUS

A steady crowd streamed through University of Nebraska at Omaha's Durham Science Center to view the Venus transit in 2012. UNO staff will set up telescopes next week so people can see Mercury travel between the sun and Earth.

Next week, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of Mercury.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha is offering the public a chance to see the planet as it passes between the sun and Earth on Monday. The planet will appear as a black dot.

The event was last seen in May 2016, said Krista Testin, planetarium operator at UNO. But the next time the solar event will happen is in 2032 and it won’t be visible from North America.

“It’s kind of a unique thing because most of our planets in the solar system we don’t see crossing in front of the sun,” Testin said.

UNO will provide binoculars and telescopes, all safe for solar viewing, at Zorinsky Lake.

If the sky is clear, viewing will start at 8 a.m. and end at 12:05 p.m. Equipment will be set up in the main picnic shelter area near the entrance south of 156th and Valley Streets.

Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, passes the sun every 88 days, but seeing the crossing is fairly rare because everything has to be aligned.

Testin said the public should not attempt to view the event with the naked eye or with a telescope or binoculars not operated by an experienced astronomer. Exposure to direct sunlight can cause severe eye damage or permanent blindness.

Mercury is the smallest of the eight planets (although slightly larger than Pluto), so seeing it with the naked eye would require sharp eyesight, Testin said.

“If you have equipment set up from the solar eclipse, you could see it, but we have it set up for you,” Testin said. “Why not come out and see us if you’ve got the time?”

Photos: Nebraskans wowed by eclipses through the years

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